Starting my GMAT preparation was really daunting. I hadn’t taken a standardized test since the SAT eons ago, and I definitely had never taken one on the computer. My GMAT math skills were questionable because, let’s be honest, who uses the Pythagorean Theorem in their everyday lives? Plus, I had a full-time job, and coming home to do sentence correction questions was not all that appealing. Here are some prep tips that I think would have been really helpful for me and hopefully they will help you get started on the right foot!
1. Plan for an appropriate time to take the test
It’s important to figure out when in the year you’ll have time to prepare for the test, especially if you are also juggling a full-time job and other commitments. You’ll want to set aside about 3 months to get some solid studying in with minimal distractions. Preparing for the GMAT is stressful enough. It would only be worse if it’s during your busy season at work, or in the midst of planning your upcoming wedding! Read more about important GMAT test dates here.
2. Use a study schedule and stick to it
Having some structure around your studying will make it feel a lot less intimidating because you’ll have a checklist and you’ll be able to track your progress. Choose a study schedule that is reasonable and works best for you. Be honest with yourself with how much time you can commit to studying, keeping in mind that it’s better to study 30 minutes a day everyday than do 4 hours of studying in one go. It’s also easier to incorporate smaller chunks of study time into your schedule. Instead of pulling out 4 hours of family time on Sundays, try waking up 30 minutes earlier every day to get your studying in.
3. Use the appropriate study materials
You don’t need to buy every prep book on the market to do well on the GMAT. In fact, it would be a waste of time and money to do so! There is a lot out there, from books to video lectures to phone apps. Pick materials that will work best with the way you like to study. Check out our favorite study resources here. We’ve got some free ones there too!
4. Understand the format and structure of the test
The directions on the GMAT won’t change the day of the test, so you will save a lot of time on test day if you come in already knowing the directions. Definitely pay close attention to the directions for the data sufficiency section. Those types of questions are a little different than what you may be used to seeing on standardized tests.
5. Be familiar with the timing
The time limit on the GMAT puts a lot of structure around how long you can spend on each question, especially because the test is computer-adaptive and you will only see one question at a time. Be familiar with how much time you have to answer the questions for each section. Time yourself when you are doing practice problems so that you can train your body to get a feel for how long 2 minutes feels like without having to stare at the timer. Here are some time management tips you can check out.
6. Take advantage of the materials provided by the test makers
The test makers publish a ton of study materials which you should definitely take advantage of! Their materials contain old, retired GMAT questions and that is the best way for you to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you’ll be asked on the test. Check out their store catalog to see the full offerings.
7. Learn the most frequently tested concepts
There is finite amount of information that is going to be tested on the GMAT (phew!). While it would be ideal to be an expert in every single topic to be tested, you can begin by focusing your study on topics that are most frequently tested. What topics are the most frequently tested, you ask? Here is our answer!
8. Be aware of your weaknesses
Do you need to brush up on your math skills? Are you a slow reader? Not familiar with common idioms? Being self-aware of the topics that may need some extra attention will help you focus your studying. It’s easy to brush off a topic because you dread studying it, but if you attack your weaknesses head-on by really understanding the concepts and strategies, you’ll find that those hard topics won’t be as painful as you think!
9. Practice, practice, practice!
The best way to apply your studying is to do tons and tons of practice questions. You’ll become familiar with the different ways the same topic can be tested, and you’ll uncover weaknesses that will help you hone in on areas for improvement. Don’t be discouraged by getting practice questions wrong. Being able to understand why you got certain questions wrong will help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Better to get questions wrong in practice than on test day!
10. Simulate test-day experience
While it may be difficult to set aside a large chunk of time to study, you should definitely try to simulate the test day experience at least once. Find a quiet place with a computer and pull up the free GMATPrep software or one of Magoosh’s practice tests (included with a Premium subscription). It’s important to take an entire practice test in one sitting. This will help you get comfortable for what it feels like to be testing on the computer for 3.5 hours.